cover image WHAT ABOUT ME?


Ed Young, . . Philomel, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23624-2

Young's (Lon Po Po) adaptation of a Sufi wisdom tale has ragged edges, but his collage illustrations frequently achieve a nearly transcendent lightness and simplicity. A boy seeks knowledge from a Grand Master, who tells the boy he needs to bring him a carpet. The boy runs to a carpetmaker, who scoffs, "He has needs! What about me? I need thread for weaving my carpets." The thread-spinner needs goat hair, and so on down the line. Once the boy completes the string of transactions, he returns to the Grand Master with his carpet and his original request for knowledge. "You already have it," the Grand Master announces. The story's two morals are spelled out on the final page: "Some of the most precious gifts that we receive are those we receive when we are giving" and "Often, knowledge comes to us when we least expect it"; these seem unlikely to illuminate either the story or the titular question clearly enough for young readers. Young's visual sense, though, never falters, despite occasional lapses in the continuity of pictorial details. Restrained use of patterned and textured papers give the collages a wonderful airiness; as the boy runs to the carpetmaker, for example, his huge skein of lilac thread streams skyward behind him. The figure of the boy, in elegant robes and turban, is almost always seen against the backdrop of vast, empty fields of speckled gray-brown, which suggest landscapes simultaneously physical and metaphysical. Ages 4-8. (June)